carpIce Fishing

I was raised
in a home that
sat on top of a steep
hill that rolled down to the
shore of a small but perfectly
beautiful lake. It is called Diamond
Lake and for the first 19 years of living
it was my fortune to be in the ever-changing
manifestations it both provided and gave backdrop to.

One of the more compelling to witness, in that it seemed so disagreeable to my nature, was ice fishing.

Sound travels with amazing clarity across a lake that is frozen and through trees that are black-limbed and leafless. When I would have to go outside to burn the trash I could hear the men speaking sometimes as though I were with them and their sticky worms, shiny hooks and cheap beer. No cell phones dispelled their serenity, their nearly Zen-like pursuits. But what they said could barely pass for conversation. Just the muttering of men who waited long hours for a tug on a line dipped into the cold waters of Northern Illinois.

Perhaps it was foretelling that once old enough to be on my own I moved to a place where shivering for luckless hours hoping to bring home an even colder carp, (for that is what our lake had in it) was a meteorological impossibility.

Now if I were on a lake that was stocked with any number of other more comestible members of the Piscean universe I might have had more understanding. But Diamond Lake had a muddy, silt bottom that the carp admired more than I.

One winter day the sun shone more brilliantly than usual on the whiteness that carpeted our ice-stilled lake. The Sun’s power proved near deadly to two young boys that fished that day. It still makes me shiver to remember pulling them out with the arms of my outstretched coat as I lay near as I dare to the broken edge they fell through. Fire-Rescue men came charging to their aid just after I reeled them in. The boys were quickly wrapped head to toe in their stiff woolen blankets. I could hear the sirens wailing down the two lane highway for what seemed like forever as I walked back up our hill and gazed out of the big window at our lake.

I began to understand ice fishing in a whole new way. And I knew I never wanted to do it again.

I’m Norman Van Aken and that’s my word on food.
*Works consulted: Memory Lane
Copyright © by Norman Van Aken, 2001